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What Is the CCRN Test?

What is most important to realize about the abbreviation “CCRN” is that it does not stand for “Critical Care Registered Nurse,” as most of the people mistakenly think. CCRN is a registered trademark confirming that a registered nurse (RN) or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) have successfully passed the CCRN examination and met the eligibility requirements of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). Hence, CCRN is a board certification received by nurses looking after patients in the acute care and critical care units. It signifies that the nurse has obtained knowledge and skills necessary to care for patients in these settings. It also confirms that the nurse in question is qualified, skilled, and competent, and that she or he has met strict certification requirements determined by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.

What you also need to bear in mind is that not all registered nurses have the right to use the CCRN credentials. If registered nurses did not receive CCRN certification or their certifications have expired, they cannot be considered having CCRN or be permitted to work with patience in need of critical care. There is yet another fact to point out: when you take the CCRN exam, you will not become a registered nurse, if you need these credentials. Note also that you can work in a critical care department without passing this exam. Excelling on CCRN test rather means that you have deep clinical knowledge of critical-care procedures and can use the CCRN letters after your licensing credentials. On a practical level, most hospitals, facilities, and organizations offer special bonuses and benefits for those registered nurses who have successfully passed the CCRN test.   

What Are the CCRN Exam Eligibility Requirements?

To be allowed to take the CCRN exam, you need to meet several requirements. To begin with, your US license of the registered nurse (RN) or the advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) should be valid and unrestricted. Equally important is that applicants must meet the following clinical practice requirements, one of the two options adumbrated below:

The First Option - Before applying for the CCRN test, applicants need to accrue a certain number of working hours. They can work as a registered nurse (RN) or advance practice registered nurse (APRN) caring for critically ill patients for as many as 1,750 hours. These working hours should be completed within the last two years of applicants’ work experience, with no less than 875 hours done in the year in which they intend to take the test.  

The Second Option – Applicants may accrue working hours needed to apply for the CCRN test longer. Instead of 2 years, they may work as a registered nurse (RN) or advance practice registered nurse (APRN) in the acute and critical care units for 5 years. During this time, they need to complete 2,000 hours of work; 144 hours out of them should be accrued in the year preceding your application.

What is also crucial is that these eligible hours spent caring for adults, children, or babies were in alignment with the exam for which you are applying. Most of these hours should be devoted to clinically ill patients. They should also be completed in a hospital based in the USA or Canada or, at least, in a facility comparable to the US standards of acute or critical care nursing practices, confirmed by Joint Commission International accreditation. 

What Topics Are Covered on the CCRN Exam?

The CCRN Exam consists of 150 questions. It is a multiple-choice exam; that is, its every question is accompanied by several answers, only one of which is correct. The duration of the CCRN exam is three hours. 125 of these questions are scored, while 25 of them are experimental. The questions you will meet on your test will cover the following topics:

  • Cardiovascular (32%)
  • Endocrine (4%)
  • Gastrointestinal (6%)
  • Hematology and Immunology (3%)
  • Multisystem (8%)
  • Neurology (5%)
  • Pulmonary (17%)
  • Renal (5%)
  • Advocacy and Moral Agency (2%)
  • Caring practices (4%)
  • Collaboration (4%)
  • Clinical Inquiry (2%)
  • Facilitation of Learning (4%)
  • Handling Diversity (2%)
  • Systems Thinking (2%) 

Examples of questions you will meet on the text will measure your knowledge of the human anatomy, symptoms of various diseases, and treatment of injuries and illnesses. Several examples will suffice to give you a clear idea of what questions to expect on the CCRN test: 

  • The innominate, the hip bones, are composed of the following parts:
  1. Pubic symphysis, ileum, and acetabulum;
  2. Illum, ischium, and pubis;
  3. Tibia, fibula, and patella;
  4. Sacrum, coccyx, and pubic symphysis.

                                                                                  (The correct answer here is b.)

  • Subcutaneous tissues are under which two layers of skin?
  1. Muscle and fat;
  2. Tibia and fibula;
  3. Plural and subdermal;
  4. Epidermis and dermis.

                                                                                   (The correct answer here is d.)   

  • Which of the following symptoms are usually not associated with a urinary tract infection caused by Proteus Mirabilis?
  1. Fever;
  2. Pain when urinating;
  3. Cloudy urine;
  4. Less frequent urination.

                                                                                     (The correct answer here is d.)

  • After you turn off the power at the place where a person has fallen hit by a live wire, how do you proceed with treating him or her?
  1. Treat the electric injuries with water;
  2. Force bystanders into a large circle around the victim;
  3. Immediately start chest compression;
  4. Call for professional medical help.

                                                                             (The correct answer here is d.)

  • Which procedure involves straining microorganisms with a purple dye in order to better identify the microorganisms?
  1. Gram stain;
  2. Purple stain;
  3. Negative stain;
  4. Positive stain.

                                                                             (The correct answer here is a.)

  • How can wet cement cause injury?
  1. Through inhalation;
  2. Only through repeated contact with skin;
  3. Only through prolonged contact with skin;
  4. Through any contact with skin.

                                                                      (The correct answer here is d.)       


Go over these topics and questions with seriousness and dedication, devoting more time to those topics that have the highest percentage indicated in the parentheses on the list above. Only when you brush up your knowledge of the material can you score high and win the right to be called the critical care registered nurse.

How Is the CCRN Exam Scored?

The CCRN exam is scored based on the number of questions which you have answered correctly. The passing score is the one higher than the threshold determined by the test’s administrator, which varies with each CCRN exam. There is no fixed passing score on the CCRN since the weight assigned to each question depends on its difficulty. In other words, the score varies from test to test, because different applicants receive questions of various difficulty and, consequently, of different weight assigned to them. In general, the passing score on the CCRN exam is between 70 to 88 percent.  If you intend to take this test, you should register on the AACN Certification Corporation website. There are ways of taking the CCRN: you can either take it in a computerized form administered by Applied Measurement Professionals Inc (AMP) or in a written form presented by the National Teaching Institute (NTI). If you are a member of AACN, your application fee will be US$220. If you do not belong to this organization, you will pay US$325.  

What Employment Prospects and Salaries Do Critical Care Nurses Have?

Critical care registered nurses have very good chances of becoming employed. In many countries, people’s longevity grows. The longer life span leads to the increasing number of elderly people needing professional treatment. Younger people’s unhealthy eating habits often lead to obesity, which also requires attention from critical care nurses. The employability of critical care registered nurses is expected to improve still further over the coming years.  On average, critical care nurses earn from US$40,000 to US$54,999 per year, though how much you will work will depend on your education, work experience, and the location of the facility in which you work.   


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